Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Ghost Prints

First of all, Happy Halloween! And as a final offering in Halloween ideas for Scribbit's Winter Bazaar, I'm sharing a project that my kids and I did this year.

I used a foam brush to paint the bottom of one of their feet with white paint. Then I had them step on a piece of black paper. I quickly used baby wipes to clean their feet and then they used their fingers to make the eyes and oh so spooky "oh" mouth with black paint on the heel part of their footprint. I added the label with their names and ages as well as the year...someday, I'm sure it will be hanging on the wall during Halloween after the kids are grown and gone. My kids LOVED this project. Enjoy!

Thanks for everyone's ideas for Halloween...can't wait to see what we all come up with for Fall/Thanksgiving!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Our Girl is 4

We are having a hard time believing that our Anna is 4 years old today. Thank goodness we've been celebrating for the past 3 days, so at least we're finally starting to get used to the idea.

Anna had her princess birthday party on Thursday for 5 of her little friends...complete with goodie bags filled to the brim with pink princess gear--skirts (thank you, Grandma!), crowns, jewelry, boas, shoes, lip gloss, nail polish, the whole bit. As each little girl arrived, we helped her get dressed and then they colored, did princess puzzles, and decorated cookies. (Thanks for all your help, Kristi!) They were so cute!

Tonight was just for our family. After baths, we watched Anna open her family gifts and cards. Since we already ate her cake, we put some candles in a brownie. Yes, I admit, it is a little ghetto, but it made her happy. We are so grateful that she is a part of our family.

From her very first moments, Anna has filled our lives with sunshine. I'll never forget the first moment I saw her how much she looked like my mom and how grateful I was to have a little girl. She seemed so miraculous.

She has not ceased to delight us since.

What an angel-girl, who loves everyone and is loved by all. Happy Birthday, Princess Anna! May you always have a smile on your face and a dance in your toes! We love you to infinity and beyond!


Last night was our ward's annual "Trunk or Treat", the greatest invention since fun- sized Snickers. It was such a nice evening and plenty dark by about 6:30 to really enjoy all the decorated trunks (and, being Nebraska after all) a truck bed or two.

After the kids parade and "Trunk or Treat", the kids came inside with their candy harvest to play games manned by the youth. Everybody enjoyed themselves, except Josh, who was up WAY past his bedtime and who wasn't entirely impressed with his moose costume. All things considered, a very successful evening.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


I got tagged by April, so here, in no particular order, are 8 things you maybe didn't know about me.

1. If I didn't already have the greatest job in the world (wife and mother), I'm pretty sure I would be a Rob Thomas groupie.

2. I crave the acceptance of only two people--my husband and my father.

3. I am a terrible singer. I mean, I can carry a tune, but just barely. It doesn't stop me from belting it out in the car with my kids, but only until they are old enough to be embarrassed by it.

4. My brain is FULL of pieces of useless information. It makes me quite formidable while playing Jeopardy!, but I have yet to figure out a way to translate that to everyday life.

5. No matter how hot it is, I have to sleep with a blanket up around my neck. It all stems from a nightmare I had about a vampire when I was about 5 in our house on Standish.

6. I absolutely am disgusted by wet feet. Whether they are mine or someone elses, don't expect me to touch them. And don't YOU touch mine either. Ugh, I got the heebies just typing about it.

7. My secret addiction is diet Dr. Pepper. FOUNTAIN diet Dr. Pepper. With lots of ice.

8. I would be happy to live in Papillion, Nebraska for the rest of my life, but I still want to travel to Brazil with my husband one day.

I tag Kristi, Cherie, and Becky!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Caramel Apple Popcorn Balls and Witches Brew, Too

Love caramel apples but HATE the sticky mess? Try these yummies instead!

Caramel Apple Popcorn Balls

1 1/2 qts. popped popcorn
2 cups rice crispies
1/2 cup chopped dried apples
14 oz. package caramels, unwrapped
2 Tbsp. water
2 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. cinnamon

Toss popcorn, rice crispies and apples together in a large bowl; set aside. Place caramels, water and butter in a saucepan and heat over low until caramels are melted and stir smooth. Add cinnamon and remove from heat. Pour over popcorn mixture; toss to coat. Let cool for 5 minutes and shape into balls using slightly damp and buttered hands. Arrange on wax paper until firm. Wrap individually in waxed paper. Recipe make 8 good sized balls, but I like to make about 24 little ones for easier party munching.

And sure to be a favorite...Black Witches Brew! It sure freaked my kids out this afternoon when I made up a batch for the photo shoot...Thanks to my friend Jeni for the *great* sticker.

Black Witches Brew

1 .14 ounce envelope unsweetened grape drink mix
1 .14 ounce envelope unsweetened orange drink mix
2 cups sugar
3 quarts cold water
1 liter ginger ale, chilled

Stir together grape and orange drink mixes, sugar and water until dissolved. Combine with 1 liter of ginger ale right before serving.

For more great Halloween ideas, check out Scribbit's Winter Bazaar!

The Cochran's 2nd Annual Pumpkin Carving Family Home Evening

We were so pleased to be a part of such a momentous occasion! The Cochrans, Broughs, Scotts and our family were all invited to the Cochran's home to eat a delicious Taco Soup dinner while the kids munched on hot dog mummies and Ritz pretzel spiders.

After dinner, the night took on a decidedly competitive edge with a bit of smack down from the men as they got busy carving the pumpkins with the kids and the ladies visited. Such a fun night!

Thank you Jen, Brian and boys!! Can't wait to do it all again next year!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Saturday Randomness

After almost 2 weeks of cool and rainy weather, Mother Nature blessed us with a killer day today...sunshine and warmer temperatures! We used the reprieve to do some work around the house in preparation for the contractors who should start work on our downstairs bedroom and bathroom on Monday. Tony is digging the hole for the egress window himself and is making our garden plot bigger for next spring.

I finally took some time today and put up my newest treasure...the coolest antique wire basket I found at "Weathered & Worn" filled with some of my favorite things. I loved the shape of the the basket...it reminded me of an old Gothic cathedral window with all the stained glass broken out.

The kids were so excited to get to play outside today in the "jacket-weather." In fact, they insisted they eat their dinner outside in their fort. So cute.

And Megan was here this weekend, so of course, we had to try out a new recipe. Yum. Just another random Saturday at our house.

Chocolate Vanilla Swirl Cheesecake

20 Oreos, crushed
3 Tbsp. butter, melted
4 pkgs. cream cheese
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup sour cream
4 eggs
6 squares semi-sweet baking chocolate,
melted and cooled

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line 9"x13" pan with foil, extending it over the edges. Mix cookie crumbs and butter; press firmly into bottom of prepared pan. Bake for 10 minutes.
Beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until well blended. Add sour cream; mix well. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each on low speed just until blended. Remove 1 cup of batter and set it aside. Stir melted baking chocolate into remaining batter and pour over crust. Top with spoonfuls of the remaining 1 cup batter and cut through with knife for swirling effect. Bake 40 minutes, or until center is almost set. Cool. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Warning! Warning!

Since the weather has turned a bit chilly, we have found ourselves watching some of our favorite movies that tend to gather dust during the glorious summer months. And atop that list of favorites is The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Often, we allow our kids to watch with us albeit with selective and creative editing techniques. As kids will, they have taken to acting out parts of the movie.

Which got my husband to thinking. He was worried that the kids, in their desire to authentically as possible re-enact the journey to Mordor, would use my engagement/wedding ring as the Ring of Power. And lose it. So one evening, he had a very stern and convincing talk with the kids explaining that Mommy's ring cost a lot of money and, technically, it was NOT the Ring of Power and to use their imagination to come up with another one. This same week was Fire Safety Week at Sam's school and he really latched onto the whole concept of the "circle and slash" way of warning NOT to do something. That all explained, Tony and I found this carefully drawn note the other night laying by my little pile of jewelry in our bedroom.

Don't even think about touching the jewels. Heaven forgive us, we've yet to stop laughing about it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Cookie Cutter Treats

I'm so proud to say that I am related to Scribbit...and she has started her Winter Bazaar this month. It is a forum for sharing ideas during the winter months and the theme for October is Halloween, so I'm throwing my hat in the ring this week.

As the daughter of a dentist, I'm constantly on the lookout for alternatives to the candy (or toothbrush) hand-out at Halloween. So, to my delight, I found this great idea in the October 2007 issue of Paper Crafts and tweaked it to my style and practicality. I found the bags of Halloween cookie cutters in the $1 Spot at my local Target and then made a tag to tie to each that has a homemade play-dough recipe on one side and a sugar cookie recipe on the reverse. I think they turned out pretty cute!

Monday, October 15, 2007

George the Elephant King

It isn't like I had anything else to do. I mean, I have two craft shows coming up next month and things to do for our November enrichment activity (I'm our ward's new enrichment leader), and a cute little family to take care of. I was momentarily overwhelmed, so I made an elephant.
My friend Kristi has been on a huge vintage kick lately and has found some of the cutest vintage prints at rummage sales and flea markets. Well, along with this new fascination with vintage fabrics, she has introduced me to the "softie." They are the cutest little stuffed creatures with a pleasingly old-fashioned appeal.

On her last visit to Papillion, she left her new book of softie patterns for me to browse through, appropriately named Softies by Therese Laskey, and I fell in love with one of the patterns by Trish Millener. So, while I should have been doing other things, I began a love affair with an elephant king named George.


We got a delightful package in the mail today from Grammy Joan and Lena full of goodies from their recent trip to visit Dave, Ange and their family in India and Grandpa Bob in Thailand! We have enjoyed so much their fun stories from their travels...including having elephant rides at D's birthday party (thanks Ange, how are we supposed to compete with an ELEPHANT??), visiting the Taj Mahal, and poor Lena's unfortunate "groping" incident in a rickshaw. We also hear that Ange's Hindi comprehension is incredible after such a short time in country and that Dave is, well, still scary smart. And Grandpa Bob is healthy and happy in Thailand, although we miss him here.

Here is Sam with his little elephant from India and his frog toy from Thailand. The color is a little off, but I just loved his little smile.

Here is Anna with her beautiful fan and bracelet box...both perfect for a little princess.

Josh got this adorable little wooden car, and Joan picked out a beautiful woven table runner for our dining room table and Lena, my book buddy, sent a wooden and embossed silver bookmark. Such perfect gifts.

Tony scored with some Thai and Indian money for his collection...thank you for such fun, personal gifts! We are so glad you are home safely!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Potato Cheese Soup

It seems like I've been posting a lot of recipes lately...but this is such a fun time to cook. With the weather cooling and the 3 straight days of thunder and lightening storms we've had, we decided to have soup tonight. And when our family says soup, we mean Aunt Wendy's Potato Cheese Soup. The original favorite McIllece Family recipe. A winner every time. Thank you for sharing this classic with us Wendy!!

Potato Cheese Soup

5 cups water
6 small potatoes, peeled and cubed
1-2 small onions, chopped finely
1 carrot, peel and coin
2 stalks celery, coined
Frozen peas (add as many as desired)
4 chicken bullion cubes
1 Tbsp. parsley flakes
2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/3 cup butter

Combine all above ingredients and cook until vegetables are tender. In another saucepan, over medium heat combine 3/4 cup butter, 1 1/2 cups milk, and 2/3 cup flour and cook together until thick. Add to cooked vegetables along with 1 cup grated cheese.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Tender Mercies

My mother is HUGE on the whole concept of "tender mercies" that Elder Bednar spoke about in General Conference in the Spring of 2005. And this morning, I experienced one. I overslept by about 15 minutes and awoke in a sense of panic...we have our morning "dance" timed down to the minute and 15 minutes, well, it can blow the whole day. So I got up quickly and ran into the boys' room and this is what I found.

Sam reading Josh "Slowly, Slowly, Slowly," said the Sloth. Completely dressed. Just waiting for me to get out of bed. But more importantly, loving his brother. I am so grateful for children that love each other.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Turkey Spinach Toss

A great recipe I found in October's issue of BH&G. Fast to make and PERFECT for the cooling weather! Let me know what you think...it scored HUGE at my house.

Turkey Spinach Toss

2 8-ounce turkey breasts
1/4 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. butter
2 ounces thinly sliced deli ham,
cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup orange juice
2 9 to 10-ounce packages fresh spinach
1 orange, cut in wedges

Season turkey with pepper. In very large skillet, heat butter over medium-high heat; add turkey. Cook 12 minutes or until no longer pink; turn once. Remove turkey from skillet. Slice into strips and cover to keep warm. Add ham to skillet; cook and stir 1 minute or until heated and starting to crisp. With a slotted spoon, remove from skillet. Add orange juice to skillet and bring to a boil. Add spinach, half at a time, to skillet and cook for 1 minute or until just wilted. Add orange wedges with second batch of spinach. Using tongs, remove spinach from skillet; divide among plates. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top with turkey and ham. Drizzle with remaining juices from skillet.

Saturday, October 6, 2007


I wish I could say that I really wanted a third baby. But I REALLY was happy with my two children; a little boy and a little girl. Verbal. Potty-trained. But when Tony came home from Iraq, he really felt strongly that we should consider having another baby. So, not wanting to tell a man that I adore (and that had just come home from a war-zone, no less) that I wouldn't have another child, I consented to try...for one month. We agreed that we might be moving and that we really didn't want to move with a tiny baby and therefore, our window was very small. What I really figured was that we'd never get pregnant in a month (we've NEVER gotten pregnant in a month) and then I could talk Tony out of it after the move. Well, the Lord knew how much this child needed to come to our family.

I wish I could say that I really wanted to be pregnant again. Pregnant women are so beautiful. Not me. I'm ghostly white and painfully skinny for the first 4 months and then awkward and starving for the last 5. And this pregnancy was the worst. SO sick. Three separate picc lines. Five months of laying on the couch each night taking two bags of iv fluid and vitamins. I wish I could say that even after I felt the baby move that I wanted another baby. And oh, the torture I put myself through because of the guilt I felt for not wanting another baby.

Even after he was born and we saw that he was a healthy, beautiful boy, and we named him Joshua, I still wasn't sure I was ready for another baby.

But after that first night alone together in the hospital room, nursing him, changing him, kissing him, I fell in love. And I knew what my husband and the Lord knew all along...that he was meant to be a part of our family.

So today, baby Joshua, on your 6th month birthday, we are so blessed. Blessed to have you, blessed to love you, and blessed to know you. May you always live in sunshine, my little one.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

My Little Christensen and Calder

BOTH big kids came home today with the cutest art projects...Sam with a padded fish from 1st grade and Anna with a mobile of her hands and feet from Joy School. I just love how they hold hands with each other.

And Anna has done her part today to support the fight against breast cancer by eating her weight in pink peppermint patties. What a gal.

Monday, October 1, 2007


I'll warn you in advance, I might sound a little like I'm standing on a soapbox today. October 1st starts Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I'm sure that we all know someone who has been blind-sided by this terrible disease that can rob women of what is uniquely feminine about us.

Let me tell you a story. When my maternal grandmother was in her early 30's (which is my age), she found a lump in her breast. At that time, there had been very little research done and the treatment for breast cancer was fairly basic. The doctors preformed a radical mastectomy and removed diseased lymph nodes which left my grandmother with constant swelling and limited movement in the arm on the side of the surgery. She also received radiation treatment. For several years, things looked good. One evening, my grandmother became very sick. They took her to the hospital and a blood test revealed very scary blood count numbers. Doctors preformed surgery to gather bone marrow from her sternum, which they discovered was like honeycomb. They then attempted the same surgery on her hipbone and discovered it was in the same condition. The cancer had metastasized to her bones. After that diagnosis, my mother remembers awaking in the night to hear her mother crying in pain. The end came very quickly after that, but was excruciatingly painful. She wasn't even 40 years old. My mother was only 14.

So what does that mean for my mother, my 3 sisters, my daughter and I? Early screening for all of us, dedicated monthly self-exams and yearly breast exams by a doctor. Yes, they are a little uncomfortable and take sometimes more time than we think we have to spare. But do them. Remind your friends to do self-exams. Remind your moms and your sisters. Be annoying. And if you won't do it for yourself, do it for your family. They need you.

So wear pink this month (I've already got my Susan G. Komen bracelet on)
and save your pink Yoplait yogurt lids and send them in to fund raise for breast cancer research.
If the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in your area is a day when you can run, run! And pray that those we love will be protected from this horrible disease and that a cure will be found in our lifetime.